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Shanghai residents hung out to dry

Italy clothesline
Residents in Genoa, Italy were asked not to hang their laundry in public. China is adopting a similar approach  

SHANGHAI, China (Reuters) -- In its bid to dress itself up as a modern metropolis, Shanghai aims to wash away one of the city's oldest practices -- the drying of laundry along busy streets.

City officials said on Monday the bustling commercial hub would increase fines on residents who drape laundry -- from diapers to underwear to quilts -- on bamboo poles overhanging sidewalks along major streets and tourist centers.

These ubiquitous sights are eyesores that soil Shanghai's image as a regional financial capital and host of numerous international events including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in October, officials say.

"If a company hangs a dirty mop on a main street, it damages the city's beautiful landscape," an official at the Shanghai Environmental Sanitation Bureau told Reuters.

The new rules, which take effect on April 1, are arousing the ire of many Shanghai residents, who are already banned from drying their clothes on several main roads like the fashionable shopping thoroughfares of Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road.

The ban will widen in April to areas around these streets and scenic spots like the Yuyuan Gardens, officials said.

Individual offenders will be fined up to 20 yuan ($2.40) per violation, up from five yuan now, and businesses will see new penalties of up to 200 yuan, the city official said.

Many Shanghai residents objected to the new rules, saying the government doesn't understand the trials of life in a city where most apartments are damp, cramped and dusty.

"Of course we have to hang our laundry out in the streets to dry -- where else can we get enough sunlight?" said Yang Huailei, a 28 year-old laborer.

The semi-official China News Service urged residents to find creative solutions, quoting the new environmental rules as saying "it hurts the image of Shanghai as an international metropolis to hang shirts, socks and underwear out to dry in the streets."

Noting that many families live under extremely poor housing conditions, it said: "It takes some imagination for them to figure out the drying problem."


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